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What is the best Happy Hour deal…for your health?! Nutritionista answers.

January 25th, 2012 No Comments

This is my favorite mid-day snack!

Right after I took this picture, I wondered, “What is the healthiest bar snack option?”  To me, this seems like it, but the chips are fried and the beer is full throttle.  Although it is a dark beer, which is less caloric than light ales if you can believe it.   Instead of guessing, I emailed Leah, aka Nutritionista who used to contribute regularly to MTM, for the numerical answer.

She responded like a champ!  Read the cold hard facts below.

HAPPY HOUR HEALTH QUIZ

by Nutritionista

Recently, Mary presented me with three common happy hour options and asked a simple question: Which is healthier? I’ve written about how to have a healthy happy hour before, but this seemed like a fun and challenging happy hour dilemma to tackle. Here are the choices Mary gave me:

  • Glass of wine and a bread basket with olive oil at an Italian restaurant
  • Sliders and light beer at a sports bar
  • Skinny margarita with chips and salsa at a Mexican Restaurant

First let’s establish portion size. I went with 3 5-oz. glasses of red wine and 3 smaller pieces of crusty white bread with 1/2 tbsp olive oil for the Italian restaurant, 4 small sliders and 3 12-oz. light beers for the sports bar, and 25 chips + 6 tablespoons salsa and 3 skinny margaritas for the Mexican restaurant.

The first thing most people would probably be tempted to do is look at the calorie count for each of these options. You might be surprised to know that the approximate calorie counts for each happy hour pick are pretty similar: around 850 for the Italian restaurant, 745 for the sports bar, and 745 for the Mexican restaurant. Yes, you could save around 100 calories by avoiding the Italian option, but calorie count isn’t telling us much here.

So let’s go beyond calories, since I don’t think they tell the full health story anyway. The Italian happy hour choice not only has the most calories, but it also has the most carbs by far — around 95g compared to 50g for the sliders and beer and only 35g for the Mexican meal. But that low carb count in the Mexican happy hour might be due to some artificial sweetener in the margaritas — and I definitely don’t think artificial sweetener is healthy. But if you don’t want your blood sugar to spike, stay away from the Italian happy hour with all that bread! White bread has pretty much no redeeming nutritional qualities anyway.

Looking at protein, the sports bar meal packs the most punch, with 30g compared to 16g in the Italian meal and 11g in the Mexican meal. The sports bar meal also has the most fat (presumably from the burgers), which you all know I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing. No, the beef in those sliders is probably not very high quality, but the fat will still be more filling.

If I had to give a final verdict, my vote goes to the sliders and beer. It will be far more filling than either of the other options because of the protein and fat. If you want to kick the health factor up a notch, eat your sliders open-face and cut back to two beers. That brings the calorie count down to around 545 and the carb count down to 20g.

If you can mix and match, go with 1-2 glasses of red wine (a healthier option than beer) with 2-3 open-faced sliders. That’s around 400 calories, 15g carbs, and 15g protein. It would also be pretty satisfying because of the protein/fat, and keep you from walking away feeling bloated. Not a bad option!

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